FISHING FROM SMALL BOATS by Jim Beane
May 24, 2020
Haven’t gone fishing this year, not yet. Didn’t go last year either. Piddled a little with surf fishing in August, but you don’t catch much from the sand at the Outer Banks of North Carolina in late August. Pompano, a mullet or two and a very occasional undersized suicide flounder. Offshore? Another story altogether. I’ve caught tuna, dolphin and wahoo and seen a few marlin caught and released. Caught a load of Triggerfish one year off a submarine wreck. But this year, I have yet to wet a line. Opening day of Rockfish season has passed and the fish are biting. I have an open invitation to jump aboard a friend’s charter boat whenever I feel like tagging along, but haven’t taken him up on the invite. It’s not much fun fishing alone when you’re surrounded by strangers. My brother was my fishing partner. He was the one who called Friday night to say come along tomorrow. And I’d go, more often than not. My wife likes fried rockfish. At 6am, I’d get to the dock and Little George, Blue, Old Joe and any other assorted dock rats my brother and his pal Captain George could round up to make a party would be waiting. We’d leave as soon as I got onboard. The motors were warmed-up and George did not like to waste time. Nearly always caught our limit. My brother and Captain George were a good team, George could find ’em and my brother could catch ’em. Captain George owned a charter boat and when he was booked, my brother served onboard as mate. They knew well each other’s moves. Over the years, they became best pals and we did a lot of fishing together. I was always Jimmy to them. Captain George, my brother, Blue, Old Joe, all gone now.
My brother-in-law is an avid fisherman and by my estimation one of the best single anchor wreck fishermen on the East Coast. We fished a lot together, mostly in New Jersey ocean waters. We skipped out to Montauk a few times for winter cod fishing, but mostly we fished off one of the four boats he has owned since I’ve known him. His current boat is a 36′ Maine built walk-around. A beauty. We have had adventures, trips from Maine to Jersey and Jersey to North Carolina, headboat fishing, Bogan’s Basin. Brielle, Point Pleasant, Long Beach Island. Total luck, I happened to marry his sister. He’s much older now, his sister and I have been married forty-one years. I’m much older. We don’t go out much anymore.
As a boy, i spent some parts of summers away from the city visiting with relatives distant to me. They lived in tidewater Virginia. A boyhood of creeks and skiffs, snakes and crabs and carefree days that I’ve never forgotten. I felt like I was growing up around the water and the men who worked on it. My father’s first cousin Harry Lee Towles owned and operated an oyster house on a back creek off the Corattoman River. Boats and crab traps. Eelers. Docks and poling through reeds looking to see what I could see. Lively was the closest town. Sometimes my cousins joined me. I’ve known two cousins in my life, Don and Glenn. Don was two months older than I and Glenn or Buddy as we all called him, was somewhere in age between my brother and sister, both older than me. Glenn died in a motorcycle accident when we were all in our early twenties. I never knew him well, but I did get to know and like my cousin Don. Don enjoyed fishing or at least the drinking beer part and owned a small boat he kept in the water at a marina located on a creek off the Rappahannock River near Kilmarnock, Virginia. He and I spent some time together on that river as men and even caught a fish or two despite Don’s lack of attentiveness to his equipment. My brother went once with us and brought his own equipment. I’m sure that day we caught rockfish. Don and I were mostly perch fishermen. I like a drift for flounder or weakfish and nothing beats a cooler full of fat white perch for a holiday fish fry. Don suffered a heart attack that put him in a coma the year we turned sixty-two. He left this world two weeks after my first daughter’s marriage. Don wasn’t one to ruin a party.
Twelve years ago, when I was still working full-time, I bought a 23′ outboard, center console fishing skiff. The last thing I needed was a boat. Boats require maintenance and repair. The boat I bought was used with not many hours on an Evinrude outboard motor. By then, my brother was done working as a steamfitter and almost done living. But the boat brought new life and purpose. We repaired things ourselves and shared costs. We would call the trip because of weather at the boat, not on the phone. He would be the Captain and I would be his mate. We decided together where we went what we fished for, me being a bottom fisherman and he being a trolling machine. It was a good arrangement. He got to tease me about not catching and I got to tease him about not finding. A few friends went on occasion, but after a while I quit asking and my brother and I spent our summer Saturdays fishing the Chesapeake Bay from our own boat. Five great years of fishing followed. But age and health don’t care much if the fishing’s good. I hope someone is making good use of the small boat my brother and I fished from for those five years. Maybe I should call my friend and tag-along. I think I can smell’em now.